Friday, July 20, 2007

Three Bags Full

I love mysteries, especially those with unusual settings (Byzantium, 525 AD – Mary Reed, or China in 650 AD – Robert Van Gulik). So imagine my delight as I read the most unique, inventive mystery it has ever been my good fortune to come across. Three Bags Full, by Leonie Swann, is set in modern-day rural Ireland. Big deal, you say, that’s not that exotic. True, but the setting is really in a sheep pasture, because the main characters in this mystery are sheep. Miss Maple, Othello, and Mopple the Whale are some of the fascinating ovine protagonists in this wonderful story, which will have you wondering ‘how can a flock of sheep solve a mystery?’ They can’t question suspects, or go undercover, or collect forensic evidence. So how would a writer have a flock of sheep not only solve the mystery, but uncover the culprit as well? Well, Swann manages to do this very cleverly (and I won’t spoil the effect for you). It takes a chapter or two to get into the story – mainly because you are trying to adjust yourself to the fact that these are animals talking (similar George Orwell, but without being hideously depressing). After a few pages, though, I could not put this book down. Funny, insightful, and clever, this book is very highly recommended. I would say that I hope for more from this author, but I’m not sure how she would follow this outing. (I don’t relish an entire series of animal detectives, regardless of how clever the writing).

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